In a country filled with many small towns and villages, the capital city of Thailand, Bangkok, is relatively enormous. Known locally as Krung Thep, it has over 1.5 million residents living in and around the delta of the Chao Phraya River. And while it’s small relative to other cities like New York City and Shanghai, it feels anything but when you visit. It’s chaotic, crowded, and bustling so you need an itinerary in Bangkok to make sure you see the top sights.
But there’s a charm to Bangkok if you can push past the overwhelm and the large throng of tourists during the busy season. It’s a heavily touristed city, and if you know of one city in southeast Asia by name, chances are it’s Bangkok.
It’s one of the best places to visit in Thailand. There is so much to do in this vast and historical city and it can be tough to decide where to focus. This is the best 2-day itinerary in Bangkok to let you see the highlights of this city.
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Day 1 Itinerary in Bangkok: Bangkok Temples, Temples, and More Temples
Many hotels in Bangkok offer breakfast, so if yours does, take advantage. You’ll often find a mix of traditional western breakfast fare and some eastern fare. I encourage you to try both. If you do venture out for breakfast, you will find some western-style places like coffee shops and pastry shops.
Thai breakfast is typically a bit different. Soups are very popular in Thailand and throughout southeast Asia for breakfast. Some popular dishes are jok, a porridge of boiled rice that is sometimes served with an egg and similar to oatmeal, khao tom, a rice soup, and Khao khai jiaw, which is rice with a Thai omelet.
You’ll see a lot of different fruits available and my advice is to try every single one. Fruit in Thailand, and in Southeast Asia overall, tastes fresh, sweet, and amazing. You could eat your body weight in fruit alone and be quite happy!
Once you’re ready, head over to the Grand Palace to start your day of touring temples. You will want to get there early as it is the most popular temple in Bangkok and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings and the official residence of the Kings of Thailand since 1782. It is used for official events and is one of the most most popular places to visit in Bangkok.
It was constructed in 1782 by King Rama I and it was added onto through the years as were many of the temple complexes. When the absolute monarchy was absolved in 1932, the government agencies and the court moved out of this complex.
It’s a stunning place and interestingly, lacking in symmetry because it was built organically over time. It makes for some really interesting shifts in the look and feel of the buildings and decorations in the complex and is worth seeing.
The Grand Palace is over 2 million square feet large (almost 220,000 meters) and is surrounded by walls. It is located on the Chao Phraya River. This massive complex includes many structures, gardens, courtyards, and lawns. It’s divided into quarters and includes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It’s partially open as a museum but it does remain a working palace with some royal offices still located inside.
The Grand Palace Complex is located at Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. It is open daily from 8:30 to 3:30. It costs 500 baht to enter (just under $16 USD) and it’s free for Thai citizens.
Wat Phra Kew — Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is actually a royal chapel located inside the Grand Palace complex. It was built in 1783 in accordance with ancient tradition, dating to the founding of the Grand Palace and the city of Bangkok itself.
Wat Phra Kew contains the Emerald Buddha, an image of the Buddha made of green jasper seated in the lotus position and clothed in gold. It is just over two feet tall and considered sacred in Thailand.
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Wat Pho — Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho, also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon or Wat Po, is a Buddhist Temple complex located only a few minutes’ walk from the Grand Temple. It is considered one of the six temples considered as the highest grade of first-class royal temples in Thailand. It was built by King Rama I on an earlier temple site and is where some of his ashes are enshrined. The original temple site is one of the oldest temples in the area and predates Bangkok itself.
This temple complex is known for having the largest collection of Buddhist images in Thailand including a massive gold-leaf-covered 150-foot reclining Buddha (46 meters). It was the earliest center for public education in Thailand and the birthplace of Thai massage. You can get a great one here if you’re interested.
Though the area around the reclining Buddha gets quite crowded, fewer people wander the rest of the complex and it’s worth seeing. There are several chapels containing almost 400 gilded-Buddha images and rows of golden statues from all over Thailand.
Also, there are some gorgeous and intricate murals as well as some funny-looking Chinese statues that once were used as ballasts on ships. You’ll also see 91 stupas (chedis) decorated in colorful tiles and ceramic pottery flowers.
Wat Pho is located at 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. The entrance fee is 100 baht ($3.20 USD) and it’s open from 8 to 6:30 daily. To get here, you can take the BTS SkyTrain, get off at Saphan Taksin station, and take a Chao Phraya express boat from Taksin pier to Tha Tien Pier (No. 9). Or, you can take a cab or tuk-tuk.
Pak Khlong Talat — Bangkok Flower Market
Pak Khlong Talat is a market that sells fruit and vegetables, and it’s the primary flower market in the city. It’s a market consisting of many different buildings with many vendors and looked to be around a city block. Inside the buildings, it’s a bit cramped but the smell is intoxicating.
You’ll see all sorts of flowers from local ones including jasmine, chrysanthemum, lilies, and orchids, to imported flowers like tulips, snapdragons, and iris. Perhaps only the colors could compete with the lovely smell.
Flowers are delivered daily from the nearby provinces and as far as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the north. It sells to wholesalers, florists, and individuals. It’s usually busy in the early morning hours with florists and local shops and then the tourists start arriving a little while later. Chances are if you see a flower in Bangkok, it came through this market. I wish I could have bottled that smell! Heavenly. And the vegetable areas smelled so fresh and green.
Flowers in Thailand aren’t just appreciated for their beauty for decoration, but they are also used for religious purposes. They are used to bring good fortune, decorate shrines, and please religious deities.
It’s only a 15-minute walk or a few minutes by tuk-tuk from Wat Pho, so it’s a nice stop to make before heading across the river to see Wat Arun.
Pak Khlong Talat is located on Jakkrapet Road, Bangkok 10200 Thailand and it’s open 24 hours a day every day.
Wat Arun — Temple of the Dawn
Wat Arun is one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok and it was my favorite to see. There are millions of ceramic tiles covering this palace and the morning sun glitters off of them as they look out over the Chao Phraya River. In a city of many beautiful temples, this is one that shouldn’t be missed.
This temple was named for the Hindu god, Aruna, displayed as the rays of the rising sun. It is one of the oldest in the area and the original Buddhist temple was believed to have been built around the mid-17th century. Wat Arun features a 260-foot high spire (79 meters) and is one of the few temples you are allowed to climb.
Make sure you do as you’ll be rewarded with some beautiful views of this temple, the river, and the surrounding scenery. There are detailed and ornate mosaics that covered the structures in this exquisite temple and it’s known for its craftsmanship.
Though it’s across the river from the Grand Palace complex and Wat Pho, it’s really easy to get to and you won’t want to miss it. It’s a quick ferry ride, and though you could go by taxi or bus, why would you? In fact, seeing these three together provides a real flavor for the grandeur of the area.
Wat Arun is located at 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand. It costs 200 baht to enter ($6.35 USD) and it is open from 8 to 5:30. To cross the river from the Grand Palace complex or Wat Pho, go across the street for a short walk (around 5 minutes) to Tha Tien pier (N8). Take a Chao Phraya Ferry to Wat Arun for 4 Baht ($.13 USD). They run every ten minutes. If you are located further down the river, you can take a Chao Phraya Express Boat to Tha Tien pier then take the ferry across.
Bangkok Night Market
For dinner, head to one of the Bangkok night markets. There are quite a few around the city and they are the ultimate place to enjoy Bangkok street food. I’ll be honest—I never ate in a “proper restaurant” in my time in Bangkok and simply enjoyed the street food! It’s prevalent, cheap, and amazing!
Of course, there are some cautions you should take when eating street food. Keep in mind that health standards are not what they are in many western countries, so it’s a good idea to stick with street carts and stands with a line of people. Though you may know by now that I’m quite impatient when it comes to waiting in lines, this is one exception. You want to make sure other people are eating there to improve your chances of not getting sick.
I don’t mean to make it sound like a game of Russian roulette, but it’s a worthy precaution. I have never had issues and the one thing I wouldn’t eat at a street cart is raw food. Well, and bugs, but we won’t go there now!
Night markets also have other things for sale including household items, souvenirs, etc. You can get almost anything you can think of and they are fun and worth exploring.
Choose the Bangkok street market you want to go to and make your way by tuk-tuk, Uber, taxi, or the BTS Skytrain.
Rambuttri West Night Market
I decided to go to a night market near my hotel as day 1 of this itinerary is a really busy day. They recommended this one and it was only a ten-minute walk. Though it’s not one of the larger ones in the city, it is quite large. There is a main area with somewhere around 50 stalls all gathered in an open area with a traffic circle of sorts. You get to play a game of chicken getting to it, though it’s not too bad.
Then there are stalls for several blocks around it as well. Even this “small” night market is pretty large, so I recommend taking a little while to check out the items and dishes available and check out which places seem popular.
I decided to play it safe with pad thai ($1.50 USD) and mango sticky rice. Mango sticky rice is *amazing.* It is steamed rice mixed with coconut cream, sugar, sesame seeds, and mango. They usually sprinkle a little salt and some yellow mung beans for an interesting crunch. When the mango is fresh it’s the most amazing and simple dish.
I saw another place was busy with different cuts of meat and seafood. I decided to get a small portion of grill pork and the flavor was amazing, the cut had a lot of fat. That is one thing you will notice in Asia, that the meat isn’t trimmed as it is in many western countries. The total was around $4 USD and enough for dinner.
Wander around and check out local life. I found this market seemed to have a lot of locals and fewer people who appeared to be tourists. It’s interesting to watch locals interact and to see how things are done.
The Rambuttri West Night Market is located at 77 Chakrabongse Rd, Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand.
After you eat at one of the night markets, if you’re still up for checking out more of Bangkok’s nightlife, check out this post for some great Bangkok nightlife ideas.
Day 2 Itinerary in Bangkok: The Calmer Side of Bangkok
Especially if you go during peak season from November to March, day 1 can be quite frenetic. Even during the slower tourist times, the temples are a popular place to visit and it can be quite overwhelming. I found that as much as I enjoyed that day, I was quote overloaded and needed some quiet time. So, the first thing I did was head to a park to walk around and enjoy nature.
After a full day of being elbow-to-elbow with the throngs of tourists in the Royal Temple complex and other famous Bangkok sites, I was feeling a need for some nature time. So, I decided to head to Lumpini Park. This park is is the “Central Park” of Bangkok and it’s massive.
The park has a large lake where you can rent boats, lots of paths for running, jogging, and biking (though biking is officially only allowed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) Smoking is actually not allowed in the park and nor are dogs.
There are lots of trees and flowers and it’s a beautiful place to just wander and lose yourself for a few hours or to rest on the grass by the water. Lumphini Park is a great place to recharge your batteries if you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by Bangkok.
Lumphini Park is located on Rama IV Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan District, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.
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Taling Chan Floating Market
If you visit over a weekend, the Taling Chan Floating Market is another fun and unique thing to do in Bangkok. Bangkok has an extensive network of canals and they were once the primary means of navigation through the city.
Floating markets sprung up as it was easier to sell goods by boat. Though they are now more a tourist attraction than a way of life, it provides a glimpse into what life was once like here and is a very popular, and unique, thing to do.
Taling Chan is the closest floating market to the center of Bangkok, making it a popular one to visit. You don’t need to devote a full day and if you in low season for tourists (May to October), you may be rewarded with a more authentic feel. Though it is popular with tourists in the busy season, it’s a unique and fun thing to do and a great place to go for amazing cheap eats in Bangkok.
Go hungry, and it’s a great place for lunch on your 2-day Bangkok itinerary! It’s truly the perfect place to enjoy the best Thai street food.
You’ll find some prepared food out and available so you can easily point to it and pictures of foods made-to-order, like noodle dishes. Some are in English as well and you’ll find prices are often shown on display boards. Make sure to bring cash.
Taling Chan Floating Market is located at Chim phli Road, Chim Phli, Taling Chan, Bangkok 10170, Thailand. It is open on weekends only from 8:30 to 4. To get there, you can take the BTS to Wongwian Yai Station, or take a tuk-tuk or taxi. It is around 30 minutes by car.
Afternoon Options for 2-day Bangkok Itinerary
For your last day in Bangkok, there are a number of different things you could do depending on your interest. I’ll share a few of the most popular options.
Learning how to cook Thai dishes is a popular thing to do when you visit Bangkok. There are a lot of different cooking classes and schools to choose from. For some great options, check out these Thai cooking classes. Many start with shopping for ingredients and end with enjoying the masterpiece.
National Museum Bangkok
This was the first national museum established in Thailand, hailing back to 1859. This is the place to learn all you want to know about Thailand’s history since the Neolithic period. You can also learn about Thai art and art history. There is an extensive collection of Asian Buddhist art as well. It has been recently renovated and is located in a former palace.
The National Museum Bangkok is located near the Grand Palace at Na Phra That Alley, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand. It is open from 9 to 4 daily and costs 200 baht (around $6.35 USD).
Shopping in Sukhumvit
Sukhumvit is a modern area in Bangkok boasting some great swanky shopping. If this is your thing, head over to the Emporium. If you’re looking to get a custom suit, there are places here as well.
There are also a lot of street markets in this area and you will find vendors from Soi 1 (street 1) to Soi 20. It’s also a great area if you want to get a higher-end spa treatment to pamper yourself a bit after the long day you had yesterday. And if you’re curious about Bangkok “red light districts,” lower Sukhumvit is the place to go at night.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
For dinner, if you’re in Bangkok over the weekend, go to the Chatuchak weekend market. (Locals pronounce “ch” like a “j” sound). It’s something that should be missed as it’s the largest in Bangkok and it’s said to be the largest in Thailand. It has a massive 15,000 stalls!
Take the BTS Skytrain to Mochit and follow the signs or the crowd. You’ll be thankful you spent some time today chilling in nature, as you’ll again be elbow-deep in a massing throng of people in this popular market. If you have been to Morocco, it’s similar to the Jemaa El-Fnaa market in Marrakech at night.
It’s a total assault to the senses: the tantalizing smells wafting around, the sounds of bartering, and loud music. But, it’s an experience. You can buy almost anything here, just like in Marrakech. Clothing, jewelry, housewares, souvenirs, food—it’s all here and ready for you to negotiate.
Chatuchak is located at 587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900. It’s officially open on Friday until midnight, and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 6, however, many of the stalls remain open well into the night.
Khao San Road
If you want to get a feel for older Bangkok, this is a great place to go. In the Ban Phan Thom neighborhood (old town), you won’t find skyscrapers and modern buildings. Instead, you’ll find two-and three-story buildings with restaurants, shops, hostels, and other types of stores. You’ll see laundry hanging out, small paper lights, and the tantalizing smells of Thai cuisine. It’s a more casual and chill vibe here and definitely a backpacker area.
It’s a great and cheap place for a foot massage or a Thai massage as well. There are some shops you can explore but really, it’s fun to just walk around here. Though it gets crowded at times, it just doesn’t seem to have the frenetic beat of some other parts of this city.
If you’re hungry, there are some great food carts and restaurants as well. And it’s very close to the Rambuttri West Night Market.
Where to Eat
As I mentioned throughout this piece, street food is the way to go in Bangkok, at least in my opinion. There are so many amazing places to eat throughout the city in night markets or carts in bustling areas. I never did eat in a proper restaurant and didn’t feel I missed out. In fact, I think Thai street food is one of the best way to really connect with local culture.
There are so many great places to go to. Check out the night markets where you can get great street food and do some shopping for souvenirs or anything that strikes your fancy. For a feel of Old Bangkok and some great food, Khaosan Road is a fun place to go. Or just wander. You’ll smell them well before you’ll see them and let that carry you there!
Where to Stay
I stayed at the New Siam Riverside Guest House and can’t rave about this place enough. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean, comfortable, and was in the best location to see the sights in the city! Additionally, they have a monstrous breakfast buffet with a lot of eastern and western option (hey, give dorian a try!) And, this was the most comfortable bed I slept in during my entire trip. The staff was also very helpful as well.
It’s more of a hotel than a guest house. I’m not sure the true difference by definition, but I thought it would be a bit smaller and more quaint. It felt more like a hotel to me, and I was fine with that. It’s also right on the river so you can get some nice views. And there is a path along the river to get almost to the Grand Palace, which is nice.
If you are limited on time, and you will be with a 2-day itinerary in Bangkok, definitely choose an area that is convenient for getting around the city. The traffic isn’t like anything you’ve seen in most western countries and can be a factor.
I really enjoyed the area I stayed in and would highly recommend it, especially if you are only staying for two days. It’s so convenient to the sights and you can walk to many. Here are a couple of other options in the same area.
Riva Surya Bangkok — If you’re looking for a slightly more upscale hotel, this one is very close to where I stayed.
Lamphuhouse Bangkok — A cheaper option, also in the same area.
If the riverfront is not enough relaxation and you’re seeking a full beach experience, consider a trip to Ao Nang/Krabi Town. My favorite resort is Ban Sainai Resort and it’s simply amazing! It’s a great way to relax through jet lag or even a great break after Bangkok!
Both of these places also have air conditioning, a must during most parts of the year in Bangkok (at least, in my opinion). If you’d rather be in a more modern area of the city, Sukhumvit is a good place to consider.
Emporium Suites by Chatrium — This is an exclusive place designed like condos, so you’ll get a great feel of what it might be like to live in Bangkok.
White House Hostel — This hostel is reasonably priced for this area and you can get a private room, a private room with a shared bath, or a shared room.
When to Go
November to March is the peak season in Bangkok. It’s the dry season, and though it is still fairly hot and humid, it is less so than in the later spring. But it can get quite crowded during this time. Temperatures vary throughout the year from 71°F to 95°F (21.7°C to 35°C). They are rarely below 65°F or above 95°F (18°C or 35°C). The rainy season runs from late February/early March to early December. The month of September gets the most rain with an average of 9 inches.
The best time weather-wise to go is December or January, with a second option from late November to March. However, there are throngs of tourists then so shoulder season is another option from April to June and September and October. The weather is less desirable then but the crowds aren’t as heavy.
When you go for your trip is entirely up to you based on what is more important to you—the weather or the crowds. You can’t go wrong either way when planning your 2-day itinerary in Bangkok.
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How to Get There
Bangkok is served by two airports, Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang International Airport (DMG) Airport. Suvarnabhumi, also sometimes called Bangkok Airport, is the airport that serves international flights from outside the Southeast Asia region. Don Mueang serves Asia’s budget airlines for regional travel. Chances are you will fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport unless you are already in Southeast Asia.
Suvarnabhumi, meaning “land of gold” in Sanskrit, is located at 999 Soi Mu Ban Nakhon Thong 1, Nong Prue, Bang Phli District, Samut Prakan 10540, Thailand. It is simply massive and one of the largest airports in the region. It’s also the 17th busiest airport in the world.
Transportation options to get to the city are the Airport Rail Link, Taxi, or Uber. There are buses, however, there’s no longer an express bus so there’s really no benefit as it’s not cheaper than Airport Rail Link. Taxi or Uber is of course the easiest option and a taxi will cost around 400 baht (around $13) depending on where you are in the city. Uber will generally be a little less.
Airport Rail Link is the cheapest way and can be the fastest way when traffic is poor. It’s located in the lower level of the airport and takes only 15 minutes to get to the central city. It costs around 150 baht (just under $5) and stops at the Makkasan station and Phaya Thai station where you can transfer to the BTS Skytrain station). It runs from 6 a.m. to 11:55 p.m.
How to Get Around Bangkok
There are a number of options for getting around Bangkok including the BTS Skytrain, Uber, tuk-tuk, bus, taxi, and of course, walking. I never took a bus, taxi, or Uber. I did a lot of walking and had fun taking a couple of tuk-tuks. The BTS Skytrain is an incredible subway system and worth taking when you can. It’s modern, clean, and efficient, and very easy to get around.
Being on the roads is an interesting experience here. Cards get so close you can literally reach out and touch them. It’s a swarm of cars and mopeds and quite a number of tuk-tuks as well. It feels like being in a beehive and the driving laws seem to be as you’d expect if you were in one. It’s intricate, exhilarating, and something of a scary dance, especially at the impressive speeds in such busy areas.
If you’re looking for some tours to take to see the sights or to do some fun activities, here are a few to consider:
Bangkok is an impressive city with a lot of great things to do and a highlight of Southeast Asia. Most flights within Thailand connect through Bangkok, and many flights in the region do as well. So, if you’re connecting through, it’s worth at least spending a couple of days to see it!
This is a city you can eat your way through happily while you see the sights and it’s surprisingly inexpensive for a city of its size. Though hotels can be a bit pricy, you can find affordable and well-located options throughout the city. It’s worth the wild ride to visit and you’ll want to choose what you’re going to do carefully from so many options. This 2-day itinerary in Bangkok is what I did and I left feeling I got to see the highlights without missing anything important.
If you’d like to visit a city in Thailand and think Bangkok may be a bit much for you, I get it. If so, consider visiting Chiang Mai. The city of Chiang Mai is a bit smaller and once you get used to the rhythm of it, Chiang Mai can be quite charming.
I also recommend not leaving Thailand without staying at a Thai beach. The one I recommend is in Krabi Town or Ao Nang. Krabi Town is a bit more quaint, but Ao Nang is very convenient to take a Thailand island cruise, and Krabi Sunset cruises is the one I recommend. If you do, stay at the amazing Ban Sainai Resort. It’s well worth it!
p.s. Yes, for you children of the 80s, I have had the song “One Night in Bangkok” buzzing through my head during the entire time I have been writing this!
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